Mary Worster

A Short Biography: Mary Worster, Harvard Shaker  (1720-1790)

by Roben Campbell, Shaker researcher


Mary Crouch married Ebenezer Worster of Harvard in 1742.[1] Twelve years later her husband died, only thirty-two years old,[2] leaving her a widow with five children to raise and an uneasy future.[3] Her second son Abijah was “put out to strangers”, and suffered many hardships and privations, and “unkind dealings”. He found “comfort and consolation” through various religious sects but “could never bring any inward feelings fully into reconciliation, ” until Mother Ann Lee arrived in 1781.[4] Mother Ann was sympathetic to the plight of widows and orphans. She said,

You must remember the poor and needy, the widow and the fatherless; and deal out your bread to the hungry, and your clothes to the naked. Your natures will say, ‘They may work and get these things for themselves.’ But Christ said, ‘Give to him that asketh, and of him that would borrow from thee, turn not thou away.’[5]

Abijah’s mother Mary joined the Shakers, as did one of his sisters, Susannah, who also became a widow with an infant in 1771[6].

The following story, told my Sarah Crouch, is one of the few from the Harvard village that describes what it meant to be under the operations of God. She was reluctant to join the rest of the family in the Shaker faith. Sarah is the wife of David, Jr. and Patience is David’s sister. Mary is probably their aunt.

While pondering upon this new & strange doctrine, and desiring to know if there was any good in it, she asked a sign which she thought in her heart was impossible to be granted.

She said to herself if Patience Crouch and Mary Worster were taken under operations of the power of God and turned down to her house she would believe in the testimony of Mother.

Soon after meeting commenced Patience and Mary were taken under operations, and commenced turning Soon they were whirled out doors & took the direction of Sarah’s house. They continued to turn till they reached the dwelling was then turned into it and were turned around Sarah several times. They then left the house without speaking a word.

Sarah could no longer resist the testimony, but soon confessed her Sins and was ever a true & upright follower of Mother & the Elders.[7]



[1] Vital Statistics for the Town of Harvard, p. 241

[2] Ibid., p. 325

[3] Nourse, p. 576.

[4] July 13th, 1826, Biography of Abijah Worster, WRHS.VI.A.5

[5] P. 209, Testimonies of the Life, Character, Revelations and Doctrines of Mother Ann, and the Elders with Her, through the word of Eternal Life was open in this day, of Christ’s Second Appearing, Collected from Living Witness, in Union with Church, by the Shakers, Second edition, Weed, Parsons & co. Albany, N.Y. 1888.

[6] Nourse, p. 258. Susannah Daby.

[7] Testimonies and Wise Sayings, Counsel, and Instruction of Mother Ann & the Elders, gathered and compiled by Eunice Bathrick. pp. 196-197, WRHS.VI.B.10.


All rights reserved. © Roben Campbell, 2016.